Vancouver mayor says pandemic economic pressures made Council hold police budget steady

VANCOUVER Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Tuesday reacting to the Vancouver Police Board’s decision to apply for a provincial review of Vancouver City Council’s 2021 Vancouver Police Department (VPD) budget allocation, said in a statement: “COVID-19 and the global pandemic continues to hit our city hard, especially when it comes to our City budget. Vancouver City Council was forced to grapple with $13 million in increased costs due to the pandemic, while losing $85 million in revenues.”

He added: “These were not challenges that could be solved with a few simple changes. The City laid off 1,800 staff, deferred $250 million in key capital projects, with management and Council taking a 10 percent pay cut. But these actions were still not enough and that’s what made the 2021 budget process so difficult. During the course of debate, over 200 people came to speak and thousands more wrote in with suggestions about how to balance the 2021 budget.”

Stewart said: “Most wanted to discuss policing and it’s understandable why—Vancouver’s police budget has increased 70 percent over the last 10 years, growing from around $200 million in 2010 to $340 million in 2020, and makes up over 20 percent of our operating budget. Given pandemic economic pressures, Council decided to hold the 2021 police budget steady, while at the same time boosting funding for community policing centres to $300,000 to enhance public safety.”

He said the City looks forward to hearing from the Director of Police Services regarding the process for consideration of the Police Board’s application and is ready to provide any information that may be required.